China is angry with the Europeans. Why? Because EU President Nicolas Sarkozy has (crime of crimes!) met with the Dalai Lama. This is China’s problem, but some have suggested otherwise and blamed the EU. Relations between the EU and China have been strained this year according to Asia Times columnist David Gosset.

In fact he suggests that European leaders have been shortsighted and ignorant in dealing with the Chinese because of the EU’s continuing expressions of solidarity with the Dalai Lama and the people of Tibet. Asia Times:

By officially displaying strong support to Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, some European politicians want to believe that they are doing the right thing. They are, in fact, demonstrating shortsightedness, ignorance and, to a certain extent, irresponsibility.


The ability to take the big picture into consideration and develop a strategic vision for the long term is what defines genuine leadership, but the current tension between the European Union (EU) and China over Tibet shows this is exactly what the EU is lacking.

What is Gosset saying – that we should desist from all criticism of China’s cultural imperialism in Tibet because it might upset them? We should just keep our mouths shut because China is such an important economic partner? And what about Beijing’s appaling human rights record? Might as well just keep silent in case any of our liberal European ideas offend Chinese sensibilities.

This a ridiculous position to take.

If giving the Dalai Lama a platform to speak upsets China, that is a Chinese problem, not a European one. Gosset continues by stating that this year Bejing has “proved it is a cooperative and responsible member of the international community.” The evidence he cites to back this statement up: first, the Olympics went off without a hitch – so what? China was under international media scrutiny. Did we really expect a second Tiananmen? The government even designated special areas for protest but no one dared to speak out. That is telling. Second, Beijing refused to recognize South Ossetia and Abkhazia – well done China, you courageously took the same stance as 190 other UN member countries. Third, China has been a “key factor of stability” during the recent financial crisis – in other words their accumulation of foreign reserves ($1,4bn), facilitated by cheap labor and a complete lack of workers’ rights, has softened the blow of the recent drop in global markets. On the other hand we have the EU, who callously jeapordized an important trading partnership by giving platform to a man who speaks of love and peace, and even admits that China deserves superpower status.

And what exactly are these terrible atrocities that the EU has committed, thereby putting at risk the entire Sino-European relationship? Well .  . .

In April, the disruption of the Olympic torch relay in Paris sparked a boycott of French products by the Chinese people. On November 13, the president of France, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency, announced he would meet with the Dalai Lama in Poland on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of Lech Walesa’s Nobel Peace Prize. On November 26, Beijing postponed the 11th EU-China Summit scheduled for December 1 in the French city of Lyon.


The immediate events which led to the dispute between Brussels and Beijing are well known. In March, the French government chose to lead the protest against what it framed as China’s “crackdown” in Tibet.

Oh good God the horror! What a callous act!

Are you sure the “immediate events” that led to the dispute might not be China’s imperialistic policies in the first place?

Beijing’s decision is not the product of impulsive haste but the result of internal discussion, careful political consideration and geopolitical calculation. It is also an expression of China’s strength and confidence. Beijing simply can not passively observe trends or events which threaten its territorial integrity and social stability.

If the EU hosting the Dalai Lama so threatens Chinese territorial integrity then surely that integrity is a myth. That Beijing would feel so threatened by these developments as to issue veiled threats of trade sanctions is a tacit admission that Tibet has a legitimate claim to autonomy and self-rule.

That China cannot maintain stable relations with the EU simply because we host the Dalai Lama shows that they are not infact a “cooperative or responsible” partner. Modern countries should be able to cooperate economically even if they disagee politically. The EU is the largest free market in the world and has the power and influence to meet these veiled threats and challenges head-on without sacrificing moral integrity, or lowering universal standards of human rights to the lowest common denominator. Thirty years ago, Chinese Leader Deng Xiaoping inititated a series of reforms that sparked China’s remarkable economic rise. It’s about time that this advance was met by a concomitant maturation in Chinese politics. In other words, grow up, China – and shut up, Gosset.

Neil Leslie is an assistant editor of the Atlantic Council. His views are his own.